Release Date: 14/09/18
Label: Dine Alone Records
If you read any interviews with The Dirty Nil, you will realise that they are resolute in their stance against anyone who tries to label them as a punk band, maintaining that they play straight up rock’n’roll. Up until the release of Master Volume it might have seemed a strange assertion for the band to be making, as power chords and snotty shouted choruses took centre stage on debut Higher Power. Yet their sophomore record shows that the glimpses of swagger and guitar-hero pomp visible on previous tracks such as ‘Friends In The Sky’ and ‘Bury Me At The Rodeo’, have been refined and given the spotlight, turning The Dirty Nil into a band that at times now seems more musically relatable to The Darkness than The Bronx.
Nowhere is this change in sound and style more clear than lead single ‘Bathed In Light’, a song that spits in the face of death as vocalist Luke Betham welcomes the opportunity to meet up with Jesus, Elvis and, of course, his grandmother, in the afterlife. With the album featuring the biggest chorus the band have written to date and guitar solos prefaced by inviting vocal hooks, it is evident that the band have really let loose and are enjoying themselves here. The punkier elements from The Dirty Nil of old are definitely still here though, seen most notably on ‘Please Please Me’ which sounds like Nirvana at their most vicious yet ends with horns and a brass section in a cacophony of noise. Vocals are still spat through a curled upper lip, though this time it seems to be done with more of a wink and a smile. The actual songwriting isn’t a million miles away from what we heard on Higher Power, rather the band are just more musically expressive with the production giving the record that extra level of sheen.
The Ontario natives have seemingly always had the ability to write a cracking chorus, but one of the stand out improvements on Master Volume is the little cast off lines scattered throughout songs which just sound plain cool and bring so much more personality and joy to the table. One such example can be seen on ‘Smoking is Magic’ as the lyric ‘Maybe when you’re older/You’ll see that the both of us were wrong’ reaches its crescendo leading into another power-slide worthy guitar solo that will send live audiences into raptures. ‘Auf Widersehen’ (roughly translating to ‘so long and farewell’), is another highlight, both lamenting and celebrating the end of a relationship between two fucked up people in equal measure, showing that this record isn’t afraid to be a little more introspective from time to time.
In spite of the rock n roll approach and sound that is all over the record, ‘I Don’t Want That Phone Call’ pleads with friends to ‘slow down’ and realise that a party lifestyle is only tenable for so long before it starts to catch up with you, showing a huge amount of self-awareness on the part of a relatively young band. They might be trying to carve out their own legacy and fill the shoes of their heroes on this record, but not without being fully aware of the mistakes they made.
Master Volume is the sound of a band coming into their own, finding their own sound and stretching their legs. It is a rock and roll record for the 21st century, replacing cliche with personality and a fresh take on a classic sound. With it, The Dirty Nil have overcome the expectation laid on them after a great debut album and have set an even higher bar for themselves in the future.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Bathed in Light’, ‘Auf Wiedersehen’